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Family Caregiver Blog

Moving Right Along: Alternative Transportation When Mom No Longer Drives

By Sally Abrahms

A parent stops driving and then what? If planned well, they will simply swap one set of wheels—their own—for someone else’s.
They will still have their freedom. But finding alternative transportation for seniors is essential for that to happen
and allows them to stay independent and engaged.

It’s important to think about this before there’s an issue. When you can no longer drive—or your “chauffeur” can no longer
take you, your world can shrink. Even if someone you know offers, you may not want to impose or feel guilty for having
to ask so often.

Here are some consequences of not being able to drive:

The better route is knowing about senior transportation options so you can keep your life: still go to dinner with friends
or family, volunteer, attend a movie or play, get to appointments, explore or just leave your home because you feel like
it.

Getting Up to Speed: Driving Options

It takes time to figure out alternatives to driving. Of course, if you live in a city, there will be more transportation
choices; a rural area or small town will have fewer. There may, in fact, be no access to public transportation. You will
really have to scramble or think about making changes, if it’s possible. (You might also consider moving so that you
are closer to amenities and supportive family or others.)

The kinds of transportation vary: convenient public transit (some communities offer volunteer navigators to do a dry run
with Dad of his bus or train route), paratransit for the disabled, private pay taxi-type services, transport arranged
by the community or even neighborhood or volunteer system drivers.

There’s another way to go: People living at home in the same neighborhood or area may join what is called a “Village” organization
for an annual fee. As a Village member, they get access to social activities and events in the neighborhood and other
opportunities that may include vetted, discount transportation services or member volunteer drivers. (There are more
than 125 Villages nationwide. For more information, try the Village-to-Village Network (http://www.vtvnetwork.org).

Navigating Creative Transportation Options

Cities and towns are getting ready for aging baby boomers and their parents. Some will need to get to work and won’t drive.
Check out two examples of how municipalities are preparing:

  1. The non-profit Partners In Care in Maryland has multiple sites that cover rural, urban and suburban areas. An all-volunteer
    transportation program uses a time bank system.

    Drivers get credit for driving others and can, in the future, dip into the time bank if they need a ride. Passengers
    contribute in different ways, i.e. manning the office phone, donating clothing or household items to the organization’s
    boutique. There is a charge for wheelchair accessible transportation.

  2. Aging, Disability and Transportation Resource Center in Aiken County, South Carolina. It’s a one-call service that provides
    access to an information specialist, lists programs and services, offers transportation options and lets you schedule
    rides.

    Jumpstarting Your Transportation Search

    Take a look at these options for non-drivers:

    • The Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116) connects you to your local Area Agency on Aging and
      steers you to transportation resources in your area
    • The federal National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (http://www.seniortransportation.net or 1-866-983-3222) is
      geared to seniors, people with disabilities and caregivers. It will connect you to paratransit services (part
      of the Americans With Disabilities Act) that may supplement fixed-route buses and public rail transport.
    • ITNAmerica (http://itnamerica.org) is a national non-profit for age 60+. Its Rides in Sight (1-855-60-RIDES, M-F 8 a.m.-8
      p.m. ET) has senior transportation resources around the country. For ITNAmerica, members pay dues and drivers
      offer door-through-door service using their own cars. The organization has your credit card on hand (a la
      Uber and Lyft).
    • With taxi-like Lyft and Uber, drivers use their cars. Rides are requested through a smartphone app. The app tells you how
      much the ride costs and the fee is charged to your credit card. With GreatCall Rides, GreatCall customers
      can use the Personal Operator to schedule a ride without using the app. https://www.greatcall.com/services-apps/senior-rides-service-by-lyft
      (Don’t forget conventional taxicabs as another route to take!)
    • SilverRide (http://www.ridesinsight.org) is a for-profit California company that not only drives seniors but also will stay
      with them (i.e. a doc appointment, a lunch date).

    Make sure you know what these services offer—and don’t. Some questions to ask:

    1. What do they cost and how do you pay (in advance with a credit card, at the end of the ride or not at all)?
    2. Are drivers trained to work with older adults and/or those with dementia? (Increasingly, companies and communities
      are training drivers about seniors’ physical and cognitive needs, including dementia.)
    3. Does Dad have to walk to the street to get the ride or will the driver pick him up inside his house? Do they
      drop him off at the curb, go in with him or even stay?
    4. How far in advance do you have to schedule a ride?

    With ingenuity and research, hanging up the keys means your parents won’t have to put the brakes on their quality
    of life.